thewilltoholdon

As I breathe and think and dream


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The Cat Is Out Of The Bag! I Am The One Behind This!

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I am a pretty secretive person. Maybe you can call me a timid mouse scared of speaking my mind and showing my true colours to the world.

I have been blogging for a month now and it has been anonymous. My blog avatar provides me perfect cover to write whatever I want uncensored. Till now I have been loving the whole blogging experience. I have poured my heart out, tapping away on the keyboard and watched personal experiences being spelt out in black and white on the screen.  In real life I guess you can describe me as pretty strait-laced. I mind my P’s and Q’s, don’t speak loudly and mostly go by the rules. But out on the blogosphere, I am uninhibited. I feel liberated here – I can cuss, whinge, unburden my heart, be funny, be a bitch. I have been kicking myself for not having discovered this before.

However by the time I had churned out eight or nine blogs, there came that inevitable stage phase when starting I desiring an audience. I have been visiting a number of blogs in this one month and dear me, there are many blogs which get a couple of hundred ‘likes’!!  The most I have ever got is maybe 5 likes. Well, I know I am not a great writer and most probably I bore people to death. 5 likes is perhaps way too many for someone of my abilities. Still my silly heart wanted like to see more people at least viewing my posts. Some traffic would be good just to acknowledge the effort I am putting into this.

So I Google ‘How to increase traffic on your blog’ and lo-and-behold! A whole lot of stuff comes spewing out. The general consensus is ‘It’s not about Blogging More, It’s About Promoting More’. Hmm – that is not good news for a person who does not like speaking about herself too much. Still I read on. Apparently there are all sorts of sites like Pinterest, Tumblr, Stumbled Upon, Digg, Reddit that can help you direct scores of people towards your blog. I have never heard of those before. I have heard of ‘Twitter’ but I don’t have an account there (I know! I am so last century, right?). Then just as I was feeling hopelessly outdated and frumpy, I see the familiar logo. Facebook! Oh yes, I have an FB profile. Gosh, this is going to be my saving grace! Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg! So feeling all warm and fuzzy inside, I post my most recent blog on my timeline.

A second later, I start panicking. Oh shit – I forgot! This was supposed to be my anonymous blog. Now my 377 friends know that it is me who is behind this. I feel so exposed. I have written stuff on my blogs which is politically incorrect, stuff that can be hurtful to some people, stuff I would never have said out aloud to them, being the outwardly prim and proper person that I am in real life. I quickly start reading through my blogs again singling out potentially damaging stuff. Damn – I cribbed about A there – she won’t like it! I said some not so nice things about B there – though I have not mentioned his name, I am sure he will be able to recognize himself , as will our mutual friends.

So now what? I need some damage control. Should I delete the post now before someone else sees it? I log into Facebook again with the intention of deleting the post. And I see someone has already put in a comment in the five minutes the post has been up (Guys, really? Do people have nothing to do?!). But yes, I feel mushy again. Aww – someone read my post! Isn’t that exciting? Ok, I am in dilemma here. To delete or not to delete! I sit staring at that post on my timeline for a while.

In the end, I do nothing.

I do not know what is will happen next. I am imagining this giant spotlight trained on me. How will I write without inhibitions while the whole world knows this is me??  I have given it some thought and I have the following options –

1)       Hire a time machine and go back a few hours in time. This time I would press the ‘Cancel’ instead of the ‘Share’ button on Facebook. Then I can continue my anonymous (two-faced?) blog life as usual.

2)      Give up blogging altogether and live a safe life again. Hope people who have felt hurt about some of the posts forgive and forget.

3)      Continue blogging but with a lot of care. Choose only politically correct neutral topics – such as quilting, 5 winter vegetables to grow in your backyard, flora and fauna of Southern Australia.

4)      Delete this blog account and open another one. This time do NOT link to own Facebook account!

5)      Say ‘To hell with it!’ and carry on blogging as myself, no matter who is looking over my shoulder.

I haven’t decided which course of action to take as yet.


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Grandpa, Can I Please Have A Dirty Granny?

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This is for all my non-Indian friends, co-workers and acquaintances in Australia, UK, mainland Europe and everywhere else.  You have made me generally feel very welcome in your respective countries ever since I have migrated from India. Over the years I have picked up a number of wonderful things from the culture of my host countries and have made those a part of my own life such as pasties, panettones, the Henley Royal Regatta and the Melbourne Cup.

However there is a lot of ground for me to cover. So please excuse me if I appear lost at times. My upbringing taught me nothing about footy, rugby, windsurfing or skiing. I had not tasted scones or cannelloni before. I have not attended the coming-of-age Schoolies at Gold coast, Byron Bay or anywhere else. I was quite surprised when I found that Dirty Granny was a brand of cider. In India, grandmothers are the most venerable of creatures and it would be almost a blasphemy to call such a person ‘dirty’.   So when such references come up in conversation, I have trouble keeping up and no doubt I make a fool of myself many a times.

In my defense  I know more now than I did when I first moved out of India but I guess it is difficult to get the knowledge of a lifetime in a few years. Some differences between the east and the west (or the east and down south in case of Australia) stemming from our vastly different upbringings and social climates, are difficult to bridge. We come cannot help but see the world with differently colored glasses.

In order to help my non-Indian friends understand  my psyche a little better, here is a random list of some rituals and rules that are commonplace  in your countries and yet they are not things an Indian would do whilst on his home soil, such as –

1)       Sunbathing- As a tribe, we do not sunbathe. Never. We are blessed with ample sunshine in our home country. We do not plop down on the beach, the back garden or the rooftop in skimpy clothing to soak in some vitamin D. Yes, we do go to the beach – to play in the water, gather seashells, to see the sunrise/sunset, to chill out at a beach shack. But never to sunbathe.

2)      Love tans – Nature has made us coffee coloured; café au lait in some cases, Americano in others. As it is human nature to desire that which you do not have, we are obsessed with fair skin. Pale skin is always in for Indians. A million products that promise to deliver perfect white skin are sold to the gullible in Indian bazaars. People arm themselves with umbrellas to escape from the melanin inducing effects of the sun. Fair maidens are prized above all in the marriage market. So in India, you will find no solariums or tanning lotions.

3)      Have dinner early – Indians do not dine at the time the rest of the world does. Dinner is always after 9pm in most households, with a fair number even opting to have dinner at around 11pm. So it is needless to say that when Indians come abroad, they are amazed to see restaurants packed to the rafters at 6:30pm. That happens to be the time for evening snacks back in India.

4)      Put children to bed early – As a corollary of above, Indian children are not put to bed by 7:30pm. They run riot through the house till 10pm. Yes, even on weeknights. Of course some children might be totally knackered by indulging in too much of cricket (the whole nation is cricket crazy!) and as such may crash out by 9 or 9:30 pm much to the delight of harried parents.

5)      Do his/her own washing up and household cleaning – This is one of the greatest luxurious of living in India and one that is sorely missed by all expats. Almost all households, middle income group onwards, employ one or many maids to do the menial tasks of washing up, vacuuming and laundry. Additionally many people keep cooks, nannies and drivers. These services are surprisingly cheap and one does not need to be a millionaire to enjoy these comforts.

6)      Have summer barbecues – Indians love their winter picnics. They carry pre-cooked lunches or else they take the cook and various cooking utensils along and set up a temporary kitchen at the picnic site. Elaborate curries, puris and pulaos are then cooked. The concept of barbecues in the back yard or in parks, where one char grills large amounts of meats in the open air and devours the same with sauce and buns, is completely unknown in India.

7)      Have wine with meals – Wine or other forms of alcohol are not an integral part of Indian meals. At the dinner table in most Indian households, food is served with glasses of water. Whisky, gin, rum , vodka and other hard drinks (wine is never big in India – one hardly gets decent local wine in India except at good restaurants) are consumed separately and accompanied by a variety of fried spicy calorie-laden snacks. Incidentally alcohol consumption is still not socially accepted in many parts of India, though that part is rapidly changing these days due to the upwardly mobile Indians.

8)      Take a ‘gap’ year –Indian youngsters do not take time of off from studies to visit faraway lands. The Indian education system is extremely competitive. One jumps straight from high school to college and from there on to jobs or further higher studies. Any sort of ‘gap’ between these logical stages is considered to be a sign of failure in making it at the first go. So Indian students do not have the luxury of dreaming of backpacking through South America or Australia for a year or two.

9)      Pay for own at someone else’s celebration event– In India the person whose birthday is being celebrated always picks up the tab. Such a person invites friends to a treat at the restaurant or bar and pays for his guests. Many Indians when invited to birthday parties abroad, are confounded when at the end each guest pays for his own dinner or drinks.

There are many other differences that I can write about. But for the sake of adhering to a reasonable blog length, I have only put down only a few. Will keep to the rest for another day!

Note: Based on the above, it might appear to some readers that Indians are missing out on a lot of fun. That is not true. On the contrary, you will find Indians are a happy lot having a ball most of the time. No doubt it is a different world – one of dazzling colors and heightened sounds, where nerds are looked up to more than jocks, where there are festivals by the dozen and each is an excuse to devour enormous amounts of food and hang out with friends and family, where marriage ceremonies last for days and involve thousands of people, where movies are filled with song and dance.There are so many things that happen only in India! Maybe soon I will post a blog on all those wonderful things.


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10 Things You Can’t Do Once You Have A Baby… Well Actually Make That 100!

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I have seen the large advertisement each time we go near the Domain tunnel when heading into Melbourne CBD. It features a large warplane (at least that is what I think it is!) and the words ‘Australian International Airshow 2013’ are emblazoned across it. Every time it catches my eye and I tell my hubby ‘Look, the Avalon airshow is on from 1st to 3rd March. We should go there!’

This week at work, I found all my colleagues talking about it. It has been the topic of conversation at many a lunch. People have been narrating their experiences at the prior editions of the show. A female colleague was enquiring about the parking fees yesterday. A senior partner at the firm was heard complaining about the expensive food there (incidentally the guy earns more than a million dollars annually but that, I guess, is beside the point). I checked out the website and gawped at the impressive looking planes featured there. I am not really into planes but I like airshows. I have only ever seen one in my life – a much smaller show near Lake Geneva in Switzerland way back in 2005. I liked that one and so I am sure I will love the Avalon show. This show is a biennial one and as I moved here in late 2011, this is the first chance I am getting to attend.

However despite having a very keen desire to spend a day checking out the spectacular flying displays, I am not going to the show this year. When the Hornets and Raptors zoom across the Avalon sky, I will most probably be at home doing a load of washing. The reason I cannot attend the show this year this is wriggling on the bed right now trying to gnaw on my iPhone. At present my six month old daughter has two pet peeves. She hates going on long drives and she hates being out in the sun. So a three hours return trip to Avalon and an eight hour day spent out in the sun is not a very good idea.

Well, let me just add this to the growing list of the things we have had to give up. On the list, there is already the shelved trip to the Great Barrier Reef. The hiking and camping trips around southern Australia. The much-looked-forward-to dinner and movie outings. The sleep-ins on weekends. Long luxurious baths. Sex of the no-holds-barred variety (we only have the shhh-not-so-loud-the-baby-will-wake-up kind now). Long chats with the significant other about life and everything else under the sun. Empty hours with nothing to do and the freedom to choose between a book, a snooze or the telly.

Life now revolves around THE BABY. She dictates when we go to bed, how much we sleep, when we get to have dinner, what we do on weekends and the other five days, the people we meet up with. She loves to thwart any plans we might be brave enough to make. She will not go to sleep when we wish to catch up on a movie at home, but she falls asleep whenever we have to do an emergency run to the supermarket.

Well, I know I should not complain too much. As people say kids are young only once and I know the next few years will race by. Suddenly my tiny baby will become an independent little person and I will get most of my previous life back. Then I will find myself missing the gummy smiles, the snuggles and cuddles, the smell of milk and talcum powder on baby skin and the nonsensical games we play. I guess I can always go to the airshow then and surely it will be even more fun to go with a child who will be thrilled with all the ‘aewwoplanes’ around!


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Pregnancy in Hindsight

“I’m tired, moody, irritable, hungry and I can’t find a thing that fits. It’s called pregnancy” – Anonymous

I looked at the calendar today and all of a sudden it struck me that at this time one year ago, I had been suffering from terrible morning sickness. Amend that – there was also evening sickness plus car sickness plus any-sort-of-motion sickness plus most-food-smells-make-me-puke sickness. At times it felt as though I was throwing up all that I had eaten for the last 2 years. Well, I know it wasn’t all that bad – certainly it was not like a certain Duchess’ hyperemesis gravidarum. But it felt bad enough at the time. 

What irked me most was how alien my body felt during pregnancy. I thought I had become pretty acquainted with my body in my 32 years. However pregnancy made me feel like there had been some sort of astral projection and my soul had been mysterious plunked out of my body and put into someone else’s. What else can explain all the aches and pains and pins and needles in places that I did not even know existed? I love walking and used to walk marathon distances over weekends before. But now I would have to flog myself to cover the meagre distance from the station to my workplace. And when I did walk, no matter how much I flailed my arms and legs still I would be the slowest thing around!

Third trimester brought with it a fresh woe. I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. The doctor prescribed insulin that had to injected into my body before dinner and each day I had test my blood sugar level 5 times – each time pricking my fingers. My finger tips would become sore with the multiple tiny wounds. And on top of that, there were the dietary restrictions. I could eat only the most minuscule portions of carbs or else the glucose readings would spike up. I have always had a sweet tooth but now even looking at cupcakes in the shop windows was forbidden. The only thing allowed was protein and I soon grew sick of all the ways in which one can cook chicken – roast, grilled, satay, tandoori, curry, kebab! I have fairly disciplined and stuck to the recommended diet plan to the best of my ability. However even that was not enough to escape the wrath of the endocrinologist. He would look at the logbook where I diligently noted each blood glucose reading and then he would set out to circle in red all those times I had slipped up even in the slightest. All the while he would tut-tut and shake his head sadly, making me feel as though I was a naughty child summoned before the school principal.

In all I could not wait for delivery day. That was a blessing in a way. While other pregnant women worried about the delivery, labour and pain, I had no time to focus on all of that. All I thought was, no matter how painful, at least there would be an end to my present problems and I would be on my way to getting back the normal me!

So when I hear that there are some women who love being pregnant, I can’t really say that I agree with them. The feeling of anticipation and the cute ultrasound pictures are very nice no doubt. And also who does not like the glow and the full head of hair that you have during the nine months? But other than those bits, I cannot really think of anything I enjoyed about the physical state of pregnancy state.

I have talked to friends and colleagues about this. It seems most women who love pregnancy actually love the feeling of being special for the 40 weeks. This is the one time many people make a fuss of them and make them feel important. Their husbands wait on them hand and foot. Hmmm … that alone I guess has tremendous global appeal!

I have a cousin back in India who is a psychologist. She lives with her husband and her in-laws. Though they are a modern family (her hubby is a psychiatrist and her father-in-law a chartered accountant), at her place there was this tradition (enforced by her mother-in-law) that the men in the house got the best of everything – the larger pieces of steak, the bigger servings of puddings, the juiciest of mangoes! My cousin who had been brought up pretty pampered by her family initially found it really hard to digest this bit. When she became pregnant, her mother-in-law turned over a new leaf (temporarily!) and started ensuring that her daughter-in-law got good food for the sake of the baby. So, as you can imagine, my cousin definitely loved being pregnant.

This sort of a thing is common in the Indian patriarchal society, where gender discrimination is rampant. No expense is spared for the education, food and upbringing of the male child – but when it comes to the girl child, its a different story. This outlook is at the root of many evils – dowry deaths, girl foetus abortion, low girl child literacy and many more. It is true that the situation is now improving in many places due to measures taken by the government, NGOs and the media. However it will still be some time before all of India embraces the idea of gender equality. Till then women in many households are brought up to treat men as superiors and they dedicate their lives to making those of their menfolk easier. The 40 weeks of pregnancy is a small window of time when such women get attention from their families instead of the other way around. That is when they are the vessels carrying ‘the heirs’ (hopefully the much-prayed-for male child!) and so they get special attention and good food so that the heir gets proper nourishment.

I am so thankful that I am blessed with a wonderful family that showers me with love and a husband who takes very good care of me all the year round. Yes, he was very caring when I was pregnant but he is normally that way even when I am not. Thankfully I do not need a popping belly to get someone to cook dinner for me or to carry my heavy shopping. I wish this was the case for everyone. Every girl deserves to feel like a princess every day!


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Parental Anxiety Syndrome

I am a new parent with a six month old baby. And boy, have these six months been an eye opener for me! I mean that in both the literal and metaphorical senses – as I definitely have not been able to shut my eyes too much in these months and also because becoming a parent has been completely life changing. Well, everyone tells you when you are planning a baby or are pregnant, that your life is going to be changed and you might try to do a bit of mental preparation for that as I did. But no amount of preparation is enough when you are finally hit with a ‘Wham!’.

The first few weeks were so hard. Oh I loved my tiny cute squirming baby but I was also scared of her in equal measures.  I lived in fear that once again she would scrunch up her little face, make it all bright splotchy red and let out a soul-shattering scream.  I would not have a single clue about how to handle her and set things right. Seriously I would never have made it through the first month without the invaluable support of my mother.

Gradually things started getting better.  The baby quietened down a bit or maybe I skilled up. Though sketchy at best, still we got some sort of a routine going. I started enjoying parenting little-by-little. Soon my scary baby started bestowing sunny smiles on me. Oh, the bliss!

However one thing did not get any better – if anything it got worse with time. I am talking about the worries that just seize me at any moment of the day and render me incapable of rational thought.  I have never been a big one to worry most of my life. My attitude was more ‘bring it on and then we’ll sort something out!’ But now I cannot seem to stop myself from being anxious about everything related to my baby.  

 

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Some typical worries are –

1)       Is she eating too little? She doesn’t seem to have grown too much in the last couple of days! Why just look at the other babies. They seem so much healthier/plumper/taller.

2)      Is she eating too much? I read online on some community that parents can actually make their baby obese for life by feeding them too much. They get used to a heavy feeling in their stomachs and that is what they consider normal.

3)      Is she breathing? (This is especially at night ) To put my mind to rest, I go adjusting her crib blankets in order to ensure that there is nothing near her face or try turning her on to her back and then she gets up and we have to go into the ‘put baby to sleep’ routine all over again!

4)      Most of the parents of 4 month old are saying online that their bubs sleep through the night or at least 5-6 hours at a stretch. Mine gets up every 2-3 hours. What’s wrong with her?

5)      She doesn’t want to play alone. She wants to be carried around all the time. Are we giving her too much of attention? Is this going to spoil her? Well, they say you cannot spoil a baby but what do they know??? I can just imagine my being a slave to a brat and fetching and carrying for her all my life!

6)      Is that her normal breathing or does she sound wheezy? Is her body too hot? Is her body too cold?

7)      Am I going back to work too early? Or am I going back to work too late? My friend went back to work n months after the delivery.

8)      Is going to childcare centre going to bad for her? I hear those places are hotbeds for germs. What if my poor baby gets sick? But then children who go to childcare centres are well disciplined and are good at sharing. So should I or shouldn’t I?  

9)      Wasn’t she supposed to be sitting/standing/cruising/walking/talking by now? Is she developing at the right pace?

10)   Is she too young to go on a flight? Will take-offs and landings be too much for her to handle? Will our co-passengers hate us? (I wish I had been more tolerant of people with infants on planes earlier.)

And so on and so forth. Some worries are plain silly and I myself can laugh them off at a later time. Some are shot down by my very grounded and stable husband (oh, I do love him when he does that). Some worries are actually good – they keep me sharp and help me in preventing a number of incidents (well, at least I like to think they do!).

For better or for worse, it seems worries now have taken permanent residence in my head. I am officially a ‘worry wart’ now. I can just see myself worrying about homework, healthy/unhealthy lunches, make-up, boyfriends, and curfew timings in the days to come. I feel mortified now when I remember how I had told my mother so many times to ‘chill’ when I was a pre-teen/teenager. Guess I should buy her a big bunch of flowers and apologise. And yes while I am at it, might as well ask her for some tips on how to deal with the ‘voices’ in my head. Thank God for moms! 


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Kangaroo Country

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I have been living in Australia for the last 15 months. By and large, I have loved it here. This is partly because of a phase of personal happiness in my life but mostly because both Australia and Melbourne, the city that I live in, are likeable and liveable in equal measures. I moved here from a fairly longish stint in the UK. So right at the beginning I fell in love with the weather. I moved here in spring and experienced a glorious summer, the kind that is equivalent to a dozen UK summers. The people here are nice and friendly – barring a few exceptions. But then I guess if you take any cross-section of society, you will get some not-so-nice people. After living in a rabbit hole sized apartment in London and paying through the nose for it, I love the spacious house I am currently living in, in the eastern suburbs. I have a front yard and back yard and the living area is almost equal in square metres to my London pad. Of course, living expenses are horrendously high here and for the first few months I kept comparing prices to those in the UK and wincing. However salaries here are much higher as well and so I guess, I cannot complain on that front either.

So all is well, except that till recently I had this one niggling sense of disappointment. The reason behind this was that I had not seen a single kangaroo in all the time I have been living here. Now to the external world and I was a part of it up till 15 months ago, Australia is in some ways synonymous with those large hopping creatures quite unlike other animals everywhere. So when I moved here, it was with a sense of excitement that at last I would be seeing kangaroos in the wild. Whenever we would go on long drives out of the city and I would spy one of those yellow signs with the picture of a kangaroo and the word ‘next 2 km’, I would lean forward in my seat and scan all the surroundings. But I met with no success. A couple of times, I saw some movement amidst the trees and I almost whipped myself into a frenzy, only to realise that it was a horse or a cow. I did not want to go to the zoo or to one of those petting farms; I wanted to see kangaroos in their natural element. I read up about where to see kangaroos and came to know that kangaroos were generally visible at dawn or dusk. We tried to follow guidance provided (it was a little difficult I was pregnant at that time and at the mercy of raging morning sickness most times – still we tried our best) – still no luck.

Then my parents came to visit us from India. The main purpose of their visit was to see their first grandchild. To a lesser extent, they were also here to see another thing – kangaroos! Hadn’t I mentioned that the external world is besotted with the notion of Australia and its kangaroos? Still our dry spell continued and my father would provide a grim sort of countdown ‘It has now been a month and we haven’t been able to see any kangaroos’ , ‘Two months now and still no kangaroos’ and so on.  My mother started to despair about what she would tell her neighbours back in India. There was talk of buying a bunch of kangaroo post cards and distributing to all acquaintances in advance just to stall the dreaded question ‘So did you see any kangaroos?’ It is not easing going kangaroo chasing when you have a fussy infant who does not understand road safety rules and hates her car seat harness with all her heart. I started toying with the idea of giving in and taking the whole family out for a day at the zoo.

Then I had this discussion with a colleague who apparently sees kangaroos the minute she steps out of her house (well, it sounded that way to my kangaroo-starved senses!). She mentioned the Wilson’s prom, the Grampians and Apollo Bay. I decided to give it one last try. We had already tried Apollo Bay with no success earlier. The weather prediction for Wilson’s prom was not too favourable.  So we planned a last minute overnight trip to the Grampians.

The baby was fussy throughout the long drive and for most of the drive westward, we saw only miles of dried yellow grass. I began to get the feeling that this trip too was doomed. However once we reached Halls Gap and checked into our lodge, we saw our first living breathing kangaroo. What an exciting moment that was for all of us!  At dusk, Halls Gap town centre filled up with kangaroos by the dozen all grazing unperturbed by the humans goggling at then. Next morning we went on an early morning stroll and saw more herds of kangaroos having breakfast or jumping about. We took enough pictures to fill a dozen albums. And we saw not just kangaroos, but also emus, cockatoos, wallabies, deer and a lone magnificent stag.

Well I guess this story just proves that we as humans love our preconceived notions about places. Talk of Paris and we think Eiffel Tower. Talk of Netherland and we think of tulips and windmills. Talk of Belgium and we think of chocolates. Talk of India and we think of Taj Mahal and cows on streets and slums.  Each of these places is much much more than just the associations we make with it. But we love to pigeon-hole things by firmly sticking a couple of descriptive stickers on to them. With places it is perhaps not such a bad thing to do at times. But often we go beyond just that and try and label people or cultures or religions. That is when things go wrong. Pre-conceived notions should not prevent us from getting to know someone or some place better. There might be some truth in clichés but there is lot of life to discovered and lived outside of them.

For now my parents are a happy lot. When they go back home to India in another months’ time, they will have dozens of photos of them with kangaroos in the background to prove as they have indeed visited Australia.


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The Choice of Children

Recently Helen Mirren raised a number of eyebrows when she said she doesn’t have children and doesn’t want any either as she has “no maternal instinct whatsoever”. Most of the world is besotted with babies and such people are definitely scandalized by the notion that a woman might not want children. I can almost hear them say ‘Why on earth would a women not desire children when it is motherhood that defines and completes women?!!!’

Indian culture as hawked by numerous matriarchs specially revolves around this notion of having children right after getting hitched. The mothers, mother-in-laws and aunts heap loads of concern on a girl who is of marriageable age and has not yet tied the knot. They sing ‘hallelujah’ when she finally does get married and then do not wait till the ink as dried on the marriage certificate to confront her to ask ‘So when are you giving us the ‘good news’?’ The particular term ‘good news’ is a specially concocted one and it refers to the announcement that the stork will be visiting shortly. Now I am not sure why this news should always be ‘good’ . In a country where the population is 1.24 billion and rising steadily, the idea of one more addition to the numbers can be a little worrying for some.

If the newly married girl does give the news within the first year or year and half, then all is well and good. However heaven help her, if she does not make the announcement within this stipulated time frame. Tongues start wagging and everyone starts pestering her with ‘well-meaning’ advise that she should really hurry up as the biological clock was ticking away. Note that no one ever asks if the girl wants children or if children would fit into her lifestyle, career and aspirations. Well, as I said earlier, if you are a woman, you have to have children!

I remember that once I had visited the house of a colleague some years ago. I had been married for about three years at that time and had no children. Her mother was there and though I did not really know the lady well, she immediately embarked upon a lecture about how I was leaving it till too late. Then she went into biological details about how a woman’s body accumulates fat as she ages and that makes conception difficult. Throughout I watched her with a kind of fascinated horror. Of course, in India, you do not interrupt an elder with a curt ‘Please mind your own business!’

I am not anti-children. i love kids almost as much as the next person. However I feel that every woman (or man for that matter) should have the right to exercise his or her right to choose what finally is an immensely personal thing. There should be no societal pressure to conform in this matter– unless of course the human species is on the verge of extinction. In that situation I guess women really might need to chip in and have kids for the greater good of the society!!!

Neither do I think that having a child is necessary for a woman to feel ‘complete’. I have a six month old who is as cute as a button and I love her dearly. I love spending time with her and love the feeling of discovering the world all over again with her. However I do not feel that her arrival has completed me. I was very much a finished product before she made an appearance, thank you!

More and more women around the world are deciding to forgo having babies and the number of such women is also on the rise in the Indian society. The reasons for this are many – some people think that a child might hamper their career aspirations, some consider kids to be unruly and disruptive, others like Helen Mirren feel no maternal urge to goo-gaa over a bassinet. Whatever be the reason, whether you decide to have a child or not is ultimately one’s own personal decision and should always remain so.